Fire and Life Safety

Provincial and local levels of government have a mandate to ensure that companies provide a safe and secure work environment for their employees, their customers, and the general public. To this end, the various levels of government enforce life safety codes such as the BC Building Code and fire safety codes such as the the BC Fire Code. These codes are based on the National Codes, and are revised and republished approximately every five years. Building a safe environment, protecting it with automatic sprinkler systems where required, installing fire alarm systems and portable fire extinguishers, meeting the requirements of the provincial codes and ensuring that adequate property and liability insurance coverage is in place, help to limit a possible loss and to ensure the economic viability of the organization.

Worker's compensation boards (WCBs) generally consider credit union employees to be workers under their jurisdiction. Since the boards are interested in ensuring that all workers have a safe workplace, as part of their mandate, in addition to enforcing the provincial Occupational Health and Safety regulations, they usually also enforce the provincial Building Code and Fire Code. To help with this enforcement, the WCB may levy financial penalties against corporations, and personally against their executive and/or the members of their boards of directors, for violations deemed to be a life or health safety risk to workers.

Kidnap, extortion, bomb threat, white-powder threats, armed robberies, and assaults against employees are all deemed to be acts of violence.  Violence against employees may result from threats by the general public, irate members, domestic violence spilling into the workplace, or from co-workers.

Whether or not these threats result in physical injury, they may result in emotional trauma, considered by WCB to constitute a workplace injury.  WCB regulations include the requirement that employers protect their staff from acts of violence and eliminate these threats, or reduce them to a minimum, in order to protect employees from injury or death at work. 

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) was established by federal legislation in 1988 and applies to all companies operating in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Canada</st1:country-region>. WHMIS regulations are also enforced by WCB to ensure that workers’ health and safety are not adversely affected by hazardous materials used in the course of business, either by janitorial or landscaping companies under contract to the organization, or by individual employees for personal use at work.

Though employers are generally very concerned about providing a safe workplace, conditions are continually changing.  Economic hardships-due to a major industry shutdown, an influx of illegal drugs into a community, natural occurrences such as floods, storms, or forest fires devastating an area-can all change the economic or social structure of a community in which a business operates. 

It is essential that community-based businesses like credit unions be aware of the changing character of their neighbourhoods, new legislations or regulations, and or changing criminal patterns, to ensure that they continue to provide a safe business environment.

Conducting Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) reviews on prospective new locations, performing regular risk assessments of existing locations, establishing and maintaining an effective Joint Occupational Safety and Health program, and adequately training staff in proper emergency response initiatives, all help to maintain the economic viability of credit unions, and ensures that their assets, including staff, are properly protected.